Soy Wonder

Week 28: 2.18.08


Joy Almost every other first pregnancy in our circle of friends and family has produced a girl. Somehow, though that wouldn't technically affect our odds, it just seemed more likely that there would finally be a boy on the way. And because we've watched so many people bring girls into the world, as soon as we found out we were pregnant we began studiously visualizing a boy just in case.

Our preparation didn't work. When we found out, the news was astonishing. A boy! In our quiet, bookish life. He's been causing a ruckus, making my belly do crazy jumps and twitches that are visible from across the room. Definitely this is not me, this baby. This is someone so completely different that he's even a he! We're probably no more or less thrilled than we'd be if he was a she, and yet, I think we're a lot more astounded.

Meaty Matters My sister-in-law Eileen, one of the few parents of boys we know, said she craved carbs during her first pregnancy (with a girl), then meat when she was pregnant with their son. She makes no claims for the scientific significance of this, but points out that it seems somehow stereotypical. Men like meat, right?

Well, I'm not really into meat these days. Most guides recommend consuming at least 3 servings of lean protein a day while pregnant, but I've never felt less carnivorous. Happily, I'm way into soy. I gulp plain soymilk when I wake up in the middle of the night, I steam edamame for an appetizer when I'm too hungry to prepare dinner otherwise, and I love firm tofu so much I can eat it plain.

Tofu: Too Good to be True? Unhappily, scientific studies (mostly on mice) about soy are proliferating, implying a vastly confusing connection between soy foods and hormone balance. One article I came across stated that prenatal soy consumption can result in male offspring with small sexual organs and low testosterone levels. So now I'm a terrible mother of a son, downing soymilk under cover of night?

Preposterous. Overall, when you start reading about soy and nutrition, you find the stuff touted for benefits like reducing the risks of breast cancer and obesity, and blamed for everything from hypothyroidism to...breast cancer. But the more common findings indicate that soy products are a wonderful source of lowfat protein, a healthy part of the prenatal diet, and a particular boon for expecting lactose-intolerant or vegan women.

While no one definitive scientific standpoint on soy has emerged, I personally consider its health benefits more compelling than any potential hormonal effects based on a few studies. So soy is on the list of foods I will continue to enjoy in moderation. If I eat a serving of tofu and a glass of soymilk in a day, I won't sweat it. But sure, I'm trying to stay open-minded about getting protein from other beans, eggs and some fish, poultry and meat.

With all the conflicting info out there, the best a person can do is play the odds by eating a diverse range of foods. And I'm betting that making tofu curry tonight is one of the healthier things I can do for myself—and my little-boy-to-be.

Tofu Curry